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World Oceans Day 2021: life, livelihoods and lessons learnt

According to the United Nations, “The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods” is the theme for World Oceans Day 2021, as well as a declaration of intentions that launches a decade of challenges to get the Sustainable Development Goal 14, “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”, by 2030.

World Oceans Day 2021: life, livelihoods and lessons learnt

Screenshot of the model simulations on the long-ternm of Cs-137 released into the Pacific Ocean off Fukushima

With our livelihoods so dependent, intercoWorld Oceans Day 2021: life, livelihoods and lessons learntnnected with the ocean, we must build a connection to the ocean that is healthy, consistent and informed. Concerns have been constantly raised these days toward Japan’s recent decision to discharge contaminated radioactive wastewater in Fukushima Prefecture into the sea amid domestic and international opposition, especially from Russia, China, South Korea, and other neighboring countries along the Pacific Ocean.

World Oceans Day 2021: life, livelihoods and lessons learnt

Cover of the UNSCEAR 2020 Report

In fact, radioactive waste has already been discharged into the Pacific Ocean ever since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster on Mar. 11, 2011 in Japan. Most of the radioactive materials came from leaks into the atmosphere immediate after the disaster, which 80% eventually deposit over the Pacific (and some over rivers), noted in the 2020 report namely “Levels and effects of radiation exposure due to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: implications of information published since the UNSCEAR 2013 Report” by United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR).

Japan only started the water treatment from 2013 when “Advanced Liquid Processing System” become operable. However, in 2018, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), who holds responsibility, admitted that they had not filtered all dangerous materials out of the water, despite saying for years they had been removed.

“During the Fukushima Daiichi accident, we learned the importance of getting out timely information. When that didn’t happen, we saw how quickly we lost trust and how hard it was to regain it,” Jessica Wieder, Director, Communications, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Unreasonable arguments rose in recent with comparison of Japan’s discharge of radioactive water from one of the worst and most recent nuclear accident the world has ever witnessed and other countries’ regular annual discharge, provoking more debates over the issue.

World Oceans Day 2021: life, livelihoods and lessons learnt

Screenshot of a report entitled “A quick read on the radioactive water in Fukushima –What makes it different” by Greenpeace International”, published on Apr. 28, 2021

International environmental groups like Greenpeace have strongly condemned those arguments, stressing that “the contaminated water of Fukushima is distinguished from other nuclear power plants not only by its greater variety of radioactive materials but also the overall much higher radioactivity.”

It has further pointed out that “the contaminated water generated by the Fukushima disaster has come into direct contact with contamination from the melted down cores of three reactors and as such is severely contaminated with many radionuclides,” the article goes, “In other words, it is not appropriate to compare nuclear wastewater of normally operating nuclear plants in general and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear wastewater.”

The Republic of Korea (ROK) called on the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on May 14 to explore ways to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure the safe disposal of Japan’s contaminated wastewater. China has supported the ROK’s request, urging the Japanese government to be more transparent nor responsible.

“The Japanese government should take up its due responsibilities, and must not take the liberty of starting the discharge of nuclear contaminated water into the sea before reaching consensus with stakeholders and relevant international institutions through consultation,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said during the regular press conference on May 17, 2021.

[ Editor: WXY ]